Information on riding a bike in Holland: cycling regulations, functional requirements, road safety, commuting by bicycle, transporting children, sightseeing routes, Dutch national cycling association and local riding clubs…
The flat terrain and moderate climate of the Netherlands combined with municipal support of infrastructure make cycling a prime means of transportation. As small as it is, the Netherlands has 35,000 kms of dedicated bike paths and there are over 22.8 million bikes in this country of 17 million residents.
Using a bicycle to commute to work, get to school or drop a child off at daycare are common in the Netherlands. Approximately 27% of commuter trips are made by bicycle. Employee parking lots usually have as many bike stalls as they do parking spaces for cars. This is true of train station parking facilities as well.
Bicycles are allowed on trains in the Netherlands (except during rush hours) but require the purchase of a bike supplement ticket (Dagkaart Fiets). Current 2018 cost is €6.10. The supplement is valid for unlimited travel on the day of purchase.
Folding bikes are allowed on trains any time of day and do not require a bike supplement ticket.
Non-folding bikes are not allowed on buses or trams, but can be taken on ferries and the Waterbus at no extra cost, as well as the RandstadRail network (in South Holland) after 19:00 weekdays and all day on weekends.
Recreational cycling is equally as popular in the Netherlands. There are numerous sightseeing routes throughout the country which take cyclists past many of Holland’s historical windmills and castles, tulip fields and cheese farms, modern architectural highlights, sandy beaches, mud flats, green polders and engineering marvels that protect the low-lying country from flooding.
Routes are designated with green and white directional signage. Maps attached to posts along the routes show where you are currently located and what the next destination is in either direction. Each segment of the route is numbered.
You can plan your own trip by using the LF route planner
Dutch Cycling Organizations
- Stichting Landelijk Fietsplatform is the national cycling association in the Netherlands. It manages over 4,500km of the bike paths described above which are used primarily for sightseeing and recreational purposes.
- The KNWU is the Royal Dutch Cycling Federation and oversees cycling sports in the Netherlands including road, BMW, track, field, beach and mountain biking, paracycling and art-wheel riding.
- Fietersbond is the Dutch cyclists’ association. It lobbies for better and safer cycling conditions in the Netherlands.
- The Dutch Cycling Embassy is the Netherlands cycling knowledge institute and provides data to governmental organizations, Dutch and foreign businesses and cyclists.
- The ANWB is the Dutch automobile association and touring club. Besides driving, it is also involved with cycling in the Netherlands. It operates stores throughout the country where you can purchase bike route maps, cycling clothes and bike accessories. The ANWB offers its members bicycle checks, roadside breakdown assistance, insurance and cycling holidays among other benefits.
Cycling Rules in Holland
Safe cycling in the Netherlands is of utmost importance. Certain aspects of riding a bike in Holland are mandatory by law and are enforced at the municipal level by local police. Not adhering to one of these can result in a fine…
- Traffic Signals: You must stop for a red traffic light and only proceed once it has turned green. Some intersections have only have one green light, but most busier intersections have two or three green lights. At intersections with two green lights (one for vehicles, one for pedestrians), proceed only when the vehicle light has turned green. At intersections with three green lights, proceed when the bike light turns green. The green lights at these intersections are often staggered, with the pedestrian light turning green first, followed by the bicycle light and then the motor vehicle light. Cyclists turning right are allowed to proceed if the light is red after stopping to check for oncoming bicycle, vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
- Cycling on Sidewalks: Cyclists are not allowed to ride on a sidewalk or through pedestrian-only areas unless it is designated as a bike route.
- Designated Bike Lanes: You are required to cycling within a designated bike lane or along a dedicated bike path (marked with a circular blue sign) if one is available. A square blue sign with the word ‘Fietspad’ indicates an optional bicycle path.
- Cycling in Parks: You are not allowed to cycle on paths designated for pedestrian use in parks, forests, woods or recreation areas.
- Cycling Abreast: Cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast in a bike path but must make way whenever another cyclist wants to pass. Cyclist are allowed to ride two abreast on a road as long as it does not hinder the flow of motor vehicles.
- Bicycle Lights: A bicycle must be equipped with a functioning single solid white light on the front that points forward and a single solid red light affixed to the rear of the bike.
- Signaling a Direction Change: Cyclists are required to signal their intent to change direction – the right arm extended outward signals the intent to turn right, the left arm extended outward signals the intent to turn left.
- Transporting a Child on a Bike: A child under the age of 8 years transported on a bicycle must be secured in a child seat approved for the child’s weight class.
- Cycling Under the Influence: It is not allowed to cycle in the Netherlands with a blood alcohol content higher than 0.5% or when under the influence of drugs.
- Mobile Phone Use while Cycling: From the 1st July 2019, a bicyclist is not allowed to use a hand-held mobile phone while cycling.
- Riding an Electric Bike: Standard cycling rules apply when riding an electric bike (i.e. a bicycle equipped with a battery that assists the rider with pedaling and has a maximum speed of 25 kph). Speed pedelec e-bikes (which can travel up to 45 kph) are subject to the same rules which apply to driving a moped.
Additional Notes on Cycling in Holland
- Helmets: Wearing a helmet is NOT required under Dutch law.